The airplane flight had been the usual post pandemic pain in the ass and the surprisingly sultry hot summer enveloped her as she exited the plane. She could see lightning bouncing in and out of the not so far off foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The gentle rain felt cleansing, as she made her way to the rental car kiosk. Ustina was fairly new to the United States, and rather excited for her first visit to Colorado. The Rockies were something she only read about in novels or magazines. From her vantage point, they seemed distant, merely a backdrop to her day. Alyosha, her husband, appeared rather unimpressed, and wanted nothing more than to be comfortably relaxed in the mountain side resort which would be home for the next few days.
Ustina was excited about the resort, because it was tucked far back in the woods. At least that is what the website communicated. The brochure they sent showed a nice green swimming pool. They didn’t expect to spend all that much time there as it was a short drive to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The man at the rental car place was flamboyantly colorful, seeming to bend the norms of the rental car industry. He did not even try to upsell them to a larger, more practical vehicle for mountain driving. He introduced their Chevy Cruze with a bit more pomp and circumstance than the situation warranted. It takes a superb manipulation of the English language, and plenty of bravado, to show that kind of enthusiasm for a Chevy Cruze. It may be one of the more banal cars introduced by a major car company. Benny made the car seem like one, which would tackle the Autobahn.
Benny handed the car keys to Alyosha and scurried back to his front desk duties.
Alyosha opened the passenger door for Ustina and said. “ Looks like I am driving.” Ustina was too tired to argue. She had no other argument other than she did not like it when he drove. The tiebreaker in her mind was that she did not want to drive a Chevy Cruze. What fun would that be? The name sounds like that guy from Texas who looks like GrandPa from the Monsters. Ustina was far too inexperienced to make a comparison such as this, yet it worked. Jet lag, like endorphins, does a weird thing to the human mind.
The Chevy Cruze was smaller than anticipated; still it served the solitary purpose of getting them reliably from one place to the next. Alyosha rarely drove, so driving gave him a second wind. He took the hairpin turns far too fast for Ustina’s liking. After they exited the airport, he declared that this rental car needed a name. This was a ritual of sorts for them when traveling. What good is a rental car if you cannot have fun? Ustina flipped on the radio resting on a station that played smoky jazz. They let the music settle in the space between them.
“This car is a Ted.”
Upon hearing this simple sentence, Alyosha let out a low chuckle that sat there for a second or two. Then the chuckle grew in waves and a ripple, eventually making its way into a full belly laugh.
“This car shall be Ted”
The drive to the resort was longer than they mentally prepared. It was the heart of summer and the days were long. The first stars of the night recently emerged from the east. They were both famished and a little more than punch drunk.
“Can you believe it, here we are in the Rocky Mountains” Ustina said as if reading a dramatic poem, in hope of elevating deflated enthusiasm.
“Does Ted Cruise have cruise control?” This sent her into a laughing fit of her own.
“Ally, do you know what is legal here in Colorado?” Alyosha sat silent for longer than needed and then ventured an ill researched uneducated guess.
“U-Turns” responded Alyosha.
By this juncture Ustina was a tad deflated as her leading question led nowhere.
“Alyosha we need some pot.” And this is exactly what they did. Alyosha pulled over on a road outside of Bolder, so that Ustrina could partake in some retail therapy. He sat in the car and listened to the tail end of the Rockies game through scattered crackling from nearby electrical storms. He sat and listened through an extended inning where the Pirates scored two runs on bases loaded walks. Eventually Ustina returned to the car and he detected a faint smell of smoke. He did not ask any questions and did not particularly care as they were on vacation.
“Did you find what you were looking for? Alyosha muttered as he turned down the radio. Large raindrops started to intermittently pelt the windshield as he looked over his shoulder toward the road. There were very few cars on the road at this time of night. She opened a good old fashioned road map to see how far they needed to travel to get to their intended destination.
I believe it’s about twenty minutes.
“We need some licorice”
After a quick stop at the shady convenience store, they approached the town of Lyons. With this, the night turned majestic and serene. Crickets chirped contentedly, water trickled down a nearby hillside and pine trees stirred in a lessening wind. They were really looking forward to seeing the mountainside resort they booked several months prior.
They were both more than ready to get out of the car and move around. About a half mile before they were to make a right, traffic came to a complete halt. There they sat, with generators humming, bulldozers and pavers grinding into the earth and construction lights making it feel like an eerie midday. They did not know it at the time, as they could have walked to the resort, which sat 100 yards to the right. They sat for twenty minutes waiting for the traffic to start up again, which it eventually did. What worried them most was their upcoming resort experience, which may be tainted with the nearby construction. Eventually they made a quick right and another right and they were at the Lyons Gateway Resort, nestled far back in the woods. It was a long day of travel and the thought of relaxing and getting a decent night of deep sleep elevated their spirits.
The resort was a little creepier than anticipated, which could be expected, with the long day of travel, the lateness of the evening and the rumble and eerie glow coming from the nearby road construction. At least, once inside their rooms, they could put this all behind them and get a fresh start in the morning. They pulled up to the main office to pick up the room key, and much to their surprise and disappointment, there was not a person in sight. Alyosha had visions of sleeping inside Ted for the night.
“What do we do now?” Ustina said with an underlying hint of fear and desperation. “I really do not know, but there is a very small sign on the door indicating office hours and an after hours phone number. “The cellular phone service was borderline non-existent, yet he was able to call the listed number. There was no answer and he left a message and a phone number.
“Let’s go check out our cabin. They probably left a key under the mat like they do in movies about people who have their houses broken into and are eventually chased by a man with a chainsaw. “
“Here it is
Here it is
Here it is”
She repeated in a singsong manner after finding the key in an envelope in a deeply rusted mailbox hanging in the shadows nearby where a WELCOME sign hung.
He walked back toward her as he was checking out the swimming pool.
“Is the swimming pool nice?”
“It is dark so I could be wrong. It looks more like a frog pond than it does a swimming pool.”
Alyosha started getting a sneaking feeling that this place wasn’t the paradise advertised on the web page. They walked , hand in hand, over to where they assumed their cabin should be . It was difficult talking to each other over the roar of the nearby road construction.
Alyosha, being the man of the house, led them both into the cabin. He reached to his right, found a light switch and flipped it upwards The light stubbornly flickered to life offering flickering resistance. The room smelled of rocky mountain mildew, must mixed with the dank smell of the air conditioner. Ustina, walked slowly towards the kitchen area and noticed a curious thing. There were lugubrious black bugs, with long legs slowly walking across the surface of the kitchen walls. She looked up and the bugs had also infiltrated the overhead light as well as the curtains that hung limply from the windows.
“Lets turn on the air conditioning” Alyosha said in mock despair. “in about five minutes the bugs shall be gone..”
Which is exactly what Ustina did as she took pictures of the bugs crawling unheeded across the kitchen walls and started moving toward the bathroom. Possibly. they had always been there. However when she flipped on the air conditioner the front fell off and the screen in the window fell into the yard. The noise from the construction sight seemed to get louder as the tension built between them. They had always been a united front, when traveling. They both gave shrugs of desperation.
“Lets go to the front office and tell them about these issues, They can give us another cabin.”
“There is no front office, all there is a note on the screen door and a phone number.”
“We came to Colorado to be outdoors, we are not going be in our rooms all that long.”
“We booked this resort thinking this could be our own special paradise.”
“Lets sleep here tonight and we can talk to the manager of the resort tomorrow.”
“I am not sure I want to stay here, this place is starting to creep me out a bit.”
“It can’t be that bad“
It should be noted it mattered little who was saying what as their collective mindset was that being completely exhausted, excited about being on an adventure together and a general disbelief that this tiny little cabin had become a collective spot of bother.
How bad could it be, she said as she pulled the covers off the pillows preparing the bed for sleep. She could hear Alyosha in the next room vigorously brushing his teeth. He’d always been a tad fanatical about his dental hygiene. He seemed to be taking the drama around the room with little pomp and circumstance. That is until he heard the shriek coming from the next room.
He bolted into the next room, looked at the bedding and for the most part it appeared to be without a stain or discoloration. Yet, the bed smelled of sweat and wood smoke. Admittedly it is not he worst smell in the world, but not the aromatic experience they were seeking. Ustina opened the window to dampen the odor, and was greeted by a glaring light and head splitting jack hammer pounding from the nearby road construction.
They had no plan of action, they knew they were not going to sleep here tonight. They packed quickly, as they had barely unpacked, and made a quick stop at the rental office so they could get the phone number written on the screen door in the front. It was a little after ten and they decided to call the number. Hopefully they could come out and fix this mess.
Ustina, punched the number into her cell and waited expecting to leave a message on an answering machine. She imagined a machine with actual tape, that had to rewound manually. Much to her surprise, a sleepy and somewhat irritated voice picked up on the other end.
“Hello”“Is this The Lyons Resort”
She explained the bugs on the wall, the smell of the sheets, the noise from the construction to the sleepy irritated man on the other end of the phone.
He sounded legitimately surprised as if there was no way it could be this bad. He explained he was an hour away and said he would be leaving in an hour.
“I would add another hour to your time. There’s massive road construction on the road leading into Lyons.“
“I did not know that” replied the ever astute proprietor of the Lyons resort”
“That’s not much of a surprise. Well anyway, It is very late and we are going to find a proper hotel for the night and we can talk in the morning.” With that Ustina hung up the phone and walked back toward that poor excuse for a rental car.
She found Alyosha waiting patiently in the rental car. She relayed the story to him, he seemed to get more agitated as the story progressed. He should of taken care of it himself, as he could more aggressive in situations such as these. He had no reason to be angry with her. He was pissed off at the Resort. They had flown a thousand miles, taken vacation, done their research only to rent a place hell bent on doing business despite the customer.
He slowly backed out of their parking space, looking over both shoulders despite a general lack of cars. It is simply a habit. Then they heard a sound of metal meeting an immovable object. In writing it seems like an odd comparison. You know it when you hear it and you immediately know it is not good.
“Stop the Car” Ustina blared as she turned down the radio. And that is exactly what he did. He then turned off the ignition, let the quiet of the night envelop him and looked In the general direction of Ustina.
“What did we run over?”
He slowly opened up the door of Ted and they were immediately serenaded by the sounds of roadside construction. They ignored the noise and walked to the rear of of the car toward the source of the grinding sound.
And there it sat partially underneath the bumper of Ted. There sat a large ornamental pot that minutes ago contained potted petunia or possibly begonia. They had destroyed the pot with their rental car, and upon further inspection Ted had taken quite a beating. There was no way of getting around it, they should have purchased an extended car warranty. Staying at the Lyons resort was no longer an option.
They moved on with their vacation and rarely thought of that pot. For the most part they had a grandiose time and Ted was a perfectly adept size challenged rental car. Seriously, how much time are you going to spend in a rental car.
Alyosha played the part of the perfect tourist in Colorado. He bought a big old baggie of pot for their enjoyment. There was no way they were going to finish it and without thinking he left the reminder in the rental car. He forgot it was underneath the spare tire.
They reported the damage to the car to the Rental Car agency.
If travel went perfectly according to plan what stories would we have to tell.
As they sat in the shuttle bus on the way to the terminal, he whispered in her ear. “I Love You”